Since separating from my ex-wife I have come to understand that she has narcissistic tendencies that I had never seen before. As I recovered from her affair and its fall out I learned to avoid interacting with her around anything involving my feelings.
However, it is much harder to avoid interacting with her when it comes to the kids. Over the last month my daughter has been living with me full time ever since her mother called the police on her. I have been doing my best to support my daughter and trying to help her understand how to talk with her mother.
On most days my daughter does not want anything to do with her. The reason she gives is that her mother focuses on herself, and does not apologize. My daughter is feeling the full brunt of her mother’s self-centered narcissism.
And like a fool I keep hoping that I can help my ex understand what she needs to do to help resolve the issues between the two of them. Copied below is an exchange of texts I had with my ex this morning. It is a snippet, a sample, of what a conversation with a narcissistic co-parent might look like.
I fully admit that I wasn’t my best self throughout the exchange. I did provoke the narcissist rage…attacking rather than admitting being wrong.
BUT it is an example of how not being able to take a child’s perspective can affect a parent’s ability to meet a child’s needs.
Ex: I would like to take darling daughter (dd) to therapy and will take her to rehearsal afterwards. If she is willing to talk with me.
DD101: Ok. It would go a long way with dd if you finally apologized to her for calling the cops on her, and saying she has hate in her eyes. If you make it about her and not yourself, then you have a chance of resolving this thing between the two of you.
Ex: I have already apologized for both. I can again. I don’t think those things are really the issue. Anything I do sets her off.
DD101: The issue is that at your house there are three adults. One has called the cops on her and blames her every time something goes wrong in the house. The other one [the affair partner] is only interested in keeping you happy, so dd feels no comfort from him. And the third, your mom, calls her a devil. So based on those things I can see why she is set off. Those are the issues whether you want to believe them or not. There is a lot of repair work to do and it is on the adults to do it. Not dd.
Ex: If that’s what she says it must be true because she always tells the truth.
DD101: You just confirmed to me that it is, and that you can’t seem to be the adult in your squabble.
Ex: I am not sure I understand your last point. You seem to always blame me for everything. How could we talk when the usual pattern is blame.?
DD101: I am trying to explain to you what dd is experiencing at your house. If you want to see it as blame then that’s on you. If you want to fix things with dd then you need to start with where she is at, and not where you think she is. I have been trying for several weeks to explain to you how to solve this, but you are choosing not to hear it.
Ex: The primary trigger for dd’s tantrums is conflict between dd and her brother. Then she expects me to act like a judge and mete out justice on him. [The day I called the cops] it started with me taking ear buds which she snatched from him. She was upset that I returned them to him. That anger and screaming went on from 10am to am to 4pm and she would not use any pf the coping skills she has learned. [Affair partner] did not get involved in this. She followed me upstairs and downstairs. I was asking for space, but she would not give me any.
DD101: She needed some comfort. Her brother had threatened her. Neither was blameless in the situation, but for all those hours she was being blamed for it. The best way to deal with that type of situation is to deal with the emotion first. In the car, after I picked her up, she wanted to blame you and her brother. I made it clear to her that ALL four of you were to blame for that escalating to where it did. Including her. She is willing to accept blame, but in the moment that is not what you should be focusing on.
Ex: I called the police because I could not take it any longer and she knocked my glasses off. I felt I had no choice but to call the police. Her therapists did not answer the phone and mobile crisis didn’t have a clinician who could come out even though she threatened to run away.
DD101: It could have been resolved earlier. The glasses being knocked off she said was an accident when she tried to hug you.
Ex: I know not to call you because you either imply that I am a bad parent, or are too intoxicated to help [almost two years ago, on another night she couldn’t handle dd, she called and I had just had some wine. I told her I would not be able to come for at least an hour].
DD101: Ok. We are done. If you are to much of a narcissist to see someone trying to help you then there is no hope
Ex: My mothers comment happened moths ago after dd called her brother a devil. I don’t remember what happened to trigger this but that’s the way my mother remembers it.
After she accused me of being an alcoholic, as she has done many times, I stopped responding. I should have done it earlier. The only way do win with a narcissist is to ignore them.
I had tried to help my daughter by pleading her viewpoint. I don’t think it helped.
How would you have handled this differently?
2 thoughts on “A peek into coparenting with a narcissist”
It’s so frustrating isn’t it? Well done for trying to stand up for your daughter.
Hey there. Thanks for the comment. It is indeed very frustrating. So much of the advice out there for dealing with a narcissistic ex is to avoid contact. Unfortunately, that is impossible when you share kids, so frustration is the resulting emotion.